June 15, 2022
How could our daily smartphone usage betray our privacy?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Shaw and colleagues who analyzed smartphone usage across 780 individuals and found that it is possible to profile a person’s day-to-day use of different apps and that this profile remains consistent over time. This suggests that our daily smartphone usage serves as a digital fingerprint that pose risks for security and privacy.
Shaw, H., Taylor, P. J., Ellis, D. A., & Conchie, S. M. (2022). Behavioral consistency in the digital age. Psychological science, 33(3), 364-370.
June 1, 2022
How does our brain organize memories to plan future behaviour?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Shahbaba and colleagues who leveraged complex behavioural and statistical machine learning approaches to uncover the fundamental mechanisms by which our brain organizes memories into sequences. This research constitutes a critical early step in understanding memory failure in cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
Shahbaba, B., Li, L., Agostinelli, F., Saraf, M., Cooper, K. W., Haghverdian, D., ... & Fortin, N. J. (2022). Hippocampal ensembles represent sequential relationships among an extended sequence of nonspatial events. Nature communications, 13(1), 1-17.
May 25, 2022
What does road salt have to do with safe drinking water?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Kaushal and colleagues who performed a comprehensive analysis of the effects of using salt for de-icing roads and fertilizing farmland on our freshwater supply. They refer to it as the Freshwater Salinization Syndrome, which is becoming one of the most pervasive and systemic water quality problems of this century.
Kaushal, S. S., Likens, G. E., Pace, M. L., Reimer, J. E., Maas, C. M., Galella, J. G., ... & Woglo, S. A. (2021). Freshwater salinization syndrome: from emerging global problem to managing risks. Biogeochemistry, 154(2), 255-292.
May 18, 2022
What would a megastudy tell us about what motivates us to exercise?
In this episode, I feature a megastudy led by Milkman and colleagues that included over 60,000 participants, and 53 motivational programs designed by 30 scientists from 15 universities. Their focus was on what motivates us to exercise. As it turns out, giving people a 9-cent bonus reward if they returned to the gym after missing a workout seemed to work best. While intriguing, without the megastudy approach, this finding might have remained hidden.
Milkman, K. L., Gromet, D., Ho, H., Kay, J. S., Lee, T. W., Pandiloski, P., ... & Duckworth, A. L. (2021). Megastudies improve the impact of applied behavioural science. Nature, 600(7889), 478-483.
May 11, 2022
How does creativity arise out of sleep?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Lacaux and colleagues who demonstrated how the brain activity common to the twilight zone between sleep and wakefulness ignites creative sparks. At the end, Thomas Edison was onto something when he thought that napping while holding spheres in his hands would help him capture sleep-inspired ideas.
Lacaux, C., Andrillon, T., Bastoul, C., Idir, Y., Fonteix-Galet, A., Arnulf, I., & Oudiette, D. (2021). Sleep onset is a creative sweet spot. Science advances, 7(50), eabj5866.
April 27, 2022
What’s the physics of a finger snap like in the Avengers movie?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Acharya and colleagues who uncovered the role of skin to skin friction behind how powerful the snap of a finger is. They found, for instance, that the snap of a finger is 20 times faster than the blink of an eye.
Acharya, R., Challita, E. J., Ilton, M., & Saad Bhamla, M. (2021). The ultrafast snap of a finger is mediated by skin friction. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 18(184), 20210672.
April 20, 2022
What if artificial intelligence machines became teammates rather than tools?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Seeber and colleagues who led an international collaboration to devise the kinds of questions that we will need answers for if we are to embrace AI as a productive teammate. Questions that will require considering implications beyond the technical to include philosophical and ethical issues.
Seeber, I., Bittner, E., Briggs, R. O., De Vreede, T., De Vreede, G. J., Elkins, A., ... & Söllner, M. (2020). Machines as teammates: A research agenda on AI in team collaboration. Information & management, 57(2), 103174.
April 5, 2022
What makes some people better huggers than others?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Dueren and colleagues who performed an in-depth evaluation of people’s hugging behaviour. They found that the best hugging experience results from 5-10 sec hugs and that criss-cross hugs are preferable. These findings have important implications for the advent of technology-driven autism therapy, such as social robots.
Dueren, A. L., Vafeiadou, A., Edgar, C., & Banissy, M. J. (2021). The influence of duration, arm crossing style, gender, and emotional closeness on hugging behaviour. Acta psychologica, 221, 103441.
March 23, 2022
How is it that medical education supervisors determine that a trainee needs to be failed?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Gingerich and colleagues. In previous work they identified the phase of disbelief that medical education supervisors go through prior to identifying underperformance. Now in this paper, they describe the shift from disbelieving underperformance to recognizing failure, which is akin to the psychological process of reaching a tipping point.
Gingerich, A., Sebok‐Syer, S. S., Lingard, L., & Watling, C. J. (2022). The shift from disbelieving underperformance to recognising failure: A tipping point model. Medical education, 56(4), 395-406.
March 16, 2022
What did we learn from the resurgence of Ebola in 2021?
In this episode, I feature a paper by Keita and colleagues who studied the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea in 2021. They showed how even almost five years after the declaration of the end of an epidemic, new outbreaks can still occur. And in this case, not because of transmission from animals, but rather from humans who were infected in a previous epidemic.
Keita AK, Koundouno FR, Faye M, Düx A, Hinzmann J, Diallo H, Ayouba A, Le Marcis F, Soropogui B, Ifono K, Diagne MM. Resurgence of Ebola virus in 2021 in Guinea suggests a new paradigm for outbreaks. Nature. 2021 Sep;597(7877):539-43.